The idea of what it means to be a man today is under attack… and it’s killing us.
After decades of decline, the suicide rate in America began to soar in 1999.
It hasn’t stopped rising since.
The rate at which folks kill themselves is now more than double what it was a generation ago.
It’s downright frightening… and yet nobody bothers to talk about it.
Given the news of late, it’s no surprise that it’s white men living in the nation’s rural areas who are most at risk.
We started to home in on the rationale behind these startling facts yesterday. Some say the definition of manhood is changing.
Men who can’t cope with the change, one prominent commentator has said, are either hiding from it or are shooting up schools.
As we said in our rebuttal to the idea, we agree with the conclusion… but not the logic that gets folks to it.
“Back in My Day”
Here’s the thing. Somewhere in the midst of this national conversation about guns, you’ve probably heard somebody make the following argument.
“When I was young,” they start, “we used to take our guns to school in the back of our trucks. We never shot anybody.”
They’re right. We did it.
Daylight hours are short in the fall… we didn’t have time to get home, grab our shotguns and get out in the woods.
Anybody who has studied logic – or has bothered to scratch their head and think – knows that if the availability of guns hasn’t changed… then some other variable must be at work.
That’s why, again, we applaud the folks who dare to look past the simple arguments (that guns are the problem) and dig into the real problem.
Something is indeed wrong with our boys… and our men.
But what is it? What has changed?
For the oh-so-clear answer, let’s look at how a young man’s life is different today than it was when we were in school.
Living in the Screen Dream
We’ll start at the beginning.
Today’s kids don’t wake to an old-fashioned alarm clock… they rise to the sound of their phone.
They pick it up and swipe it until the noise stops.
With the device already in their hands and their dopamine levels running low, they check their texts and hop online to see what’s new in the fake world of Facebook.
With their addiction fed, they hop downstairs, eat a bowl of highly processed, sugar-rich cereal and get those dopamine receptors really fired up.
High on the same hormones that feed alcoholics and drug addicts, they head off to school.
This is where things really go downhill.
At school, teenagers are treated like fragile little vessels. They can’t be offended… can’t be disciplined… and certainly can’t be taught the truth of the world (they’d run home crying).
Every day is a pep rally where the cheerleaders at the chalkboard preach a “feel good” curriculum.
Everybody wins, our kids our taught. And if they lose… surely it’s somebody else’s fault.
Shop class has been replaced by diversity training. Gym class favors the fat. And Johnny still spits in English class… because his life has been tough and the teacher’s not allowed to do anything lest she find herself in a chat with the ACLU.
Here it is straight from one student’s mouth:
High school wasn’t designed to encourage mature, motivated, passionate young adults to learn – it was designed to cater to the bottom of the barrel, to create a population that can follow directions, memorize facts and fill out paperwork.
When the bell rings, most kids these days don’t have to worry about heading to an after-school job. (The number of teens in the workforce is at a record low of about 35% – down from a high of nearly 60% in the late ‘70s.)
Instead of clocking in to a job, kids head home to the couch. They’ve got a few hours to burn until an exhausted parent gets home from work.
They spend hours playing gory shoot-em-up video games where everybody dies… and then things start all over again with the push of a button.
They may have a texting “conversation” with their pals – where nobody says a word (or uses a full sentence).
Or maybe they’ll watch a movie. Kids love the sex, violence and villainy on the screen these days. Surely they can list every Star Wars movie in order… but good luck with the Constitution.
Later that night, they’ll log on to a computer, do their homework and stare at a screen for another hour or two… giving their brains one last slug of that dopamine it craves.
In all, they put in a whole day without seeming to ever look up and see a healthy dose of reality.
They don’t get outside. They don’t know the pain of coming home without a trophy. And if they complain about it… somebody puts a pill in their mouth.
The New Great Depression
Given the change in our culture, it’s no wonder that adolescent depression has risen by nearly 50% in the last decade. It’s not hard to find the problem.
Kids are shackled to a world of false reality. And if they try to escape it, things only get worse.
It’s enough to depress anybody.
So when folks say it’s our boys who are broken, we don’t disagree.
But the boys are only the symptom. They’re broke because something far stronger is breaking them.
Our culture has gone mad.
And it’s killing us.
It’s tough to be a man today when just about everything out there is telling us to be something different… something false.
The only way to fix it is to focus on what we know works. It’s only when we master our Liberty, Connections and Know-How that we’ll fix this problem.
Until then… well, things won’t be like they used to be.